With the Japan-U.S. alliance set as a cornerstone, it is essential to promote multifaceted security cooperation with a friendly nation nearly on a par with the United States.
The Japanese and British governments have held a meeting of their foreign and defense ministers in London, known as two-plus-two talks. The latest meeting, the third of its kind to take place between the two countries, follows similar talks in January last year.
A joint statement issued at the talks clearly stated efforts will be made to reinforce technical cooperation on defense equipment, and joint exercises. It also stressed that the two nations will “never recognize a nuclear-armed North Korea,” affirming they will apply maximum pressure on the North.
Japan and Britain, both oceanic states, are important U.S. allies. They share such values as freedom and democracy. It was reasonable for the joint statement to say Japan and Britain are “each other’s closest security partners in Europe and Asia respectively,” expressing their commitment to “elevating their global security partnership to the next level.”
Although there is no security treaty between the two countries, they have concluded an information protection treaty and an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement in recent years. Within both governments, there is growing momentum for regarding each other as a “quasi-ally.”
What is important is to attain security cooperation commensurate with their positions as quasi-allies.
Regarding a new air-to-air missile for which a joint study is currently being conducted, the two nations agreed to build a prototype as early as by the end of fiscal 2023. They are also considering the possibility of cooperation in developing a fighter plane in the future.
Conclude visiting forces pact
It is hoped that steady progress will be made in promoting cooperation with Britain, whose military technology has been highly regarded over the years.
It was agreed that the Ground Self-Defense Force and the British Army will conduct a joint drill in Japan for the first time next year. The Maritime Self-Defense Force and the British Navy will carry out an exercise in Asia, too.
In the event of an emergency on the Korean Peninsula, the possibility is small that the British military will dispatch troops on a large scale. Still, joint drills involving the two nations will not only promote a relationship of trust but also expand the SDF’s expertise and improve their proficiency.
To enable the SDF and the British military to smoothly operate in each other’s country, serious efforts should be made to promote talks aimed at concluding a status of visiting forces agreement to clarify the legal position of these armed forces.
It was significant for Britain to clarify its involvement in a “free and open Indo-Pacific strategy,” which is being promoted by Japan and the United States. Britain also referred to the idea of deploying a state-of-the-art aircraft carrier in Asia.
China has been stepping up self-righteous maritime advances in the East and South China seas. The Japan-U.S. strategy seeks to urge China to restrain its hegemonic moves while also establishing freedom of navigation and the rule of law in these regions.
The key to success in the strategy is how to cooperate with many pertinent countries, thereby exerting influence on China in pursuit of the objective.
“We welcome a British return to the east of the Suez [Canal],” Foreign Minister Taro Kono emphasized.
Japan will also urge France to cooperate in this endeavor during a two-plus-two meeting as early as next month. It is essential to increase the depth of the strategy by gaining the endorsement of India and Australia, both pertinent to the strategy, as well as major European nations.